Friday, November 30, 2012

New Leaders at Hampshire College Library: Library Director Jennifer Gunter King and Archivist Jimi Jones

Good news really deserves full and proper coverage, but since I am (for a variety of reasons) unable to give it that at the moment, I'll take solace in the fact that it also speaks for itself:

In the interval since my first mention of our library search, Hampshire College has made not one, but two outstanding hires, the first for the position of Director of the Library, the second for College Archivist. I was a member of the search committee for the former and attended the candidate talks and offered feedback for the latter. As it happens, I was personally acquainted with the successful candidate in the former and was familiar with the work of the latter. I could not be happier.

Welcome, Jennifer Gunter King and Jimi Jones!

Our new Library Director is Jennifer Gunter King, whom I have known for five years, since we worked together on the "Bookmarks" events of Museums 10, the consortium of Pioneer Valley Museums. Arranging book-related exhibitions and programs engaging institutions from the Emily Dickinson Museum (obvious) and Five College art museums (logical enough) to the Amherst College geological museum (now, that was a tough one) was no mean trick, and it is no understatement to say that Jennifer's energy and creativity were a driving force behind the series, its intellectual conception, and its success. (program site here; I posted a few brief descriptive reports on the first half of the program here; Roger Mummert of the New York Times wrote about the exhibition and the general book culture of the area: "In the Valley of the Literate.")

Jennifer, until now head of Archives and Special Collections at Mount Holyoke College, has many talents. Trained to work in traditional rare print and manuscript sources, she is also passionately committed to doing the work of the present using the tools of the present, and geared to the distinctive needs of Hampshire College. For example, given that we do not have traditional "special collections" involving internationally famous rarities, and rather, documents mostly associated with the personae or general mission and values of the young college, she sees the need to highlight student and faculty work, to digitize and publicize our current cultural production.

I'll let her explain her approach herself in this profile, published at the time of her hiring in March. Among other things, it said, "At Hampshire, she believes it is essential to showcase the intellectual output of the Hampshire community past and present. Because of the preponderance of work done in new media, King wants to make sure that, from an archival and research perspective, work isn’t lost due to a lack of ability to preserve and showcase those materials."

This philosophy meshes perfectly with that of our new archivist, Jimi Jones. He comes to us fresh from a prestigious position at the Library of Congress, with equally impressive credentials and an equal commitment to both cutting-edge practices and the distinctive mission of the College. Although I had not met Jimi before his campus visit, I was familiar with his regular blog posts on "The Signal," the digital preservation blog of the Library of Congress. What impressed me was not just his expertise in these specialized (though today becoming the norm) areas, but also his historical perspective and breadth of vision. Like Jennifer, he understands the role of digital media.

Like Jennifer, he also has multiple talents and varied interests, extending, for example, to art, and in particular, the book arts, with which he was involved at the University of Utah. Book arts, perhaps because students have a new appreciation for the physical and the tangible in an increasingly "virtual" age, have become very popular since we founded the Center for the Book here at the end of the last century (sorry, can't help myself: just like to use that phrase). The two worlds came together recently just around the time of Jimi's arrival with our very successful "Pulp to Pixels" program and exhibit (blog here), funded by a Five College Mellon grant for digital humanities. Jimi hit the ground running, and his energy, approach, and talents can be appreciated from this report, which he posted on our Hampshire Media Tumblr.

Not only do these hires bring to us two talented leaders of their respective departments or domains. They will also be a wonderful stimulus to all aspects of our Center for the Book, which understands "the history of the book" as the study of the technologized word, thus embracing the entire sweep of development from the origins of writing to today's "new" media.

Obviously, great hires such as these are good for the College in a direct and practical sense. More generally and perhaps more important, though, the decision of these two highly qualified professionals to come here when they could be highly competitive and sought-after candidates anywhere, is a real vote of confidence for the accomplishments and prospects of the institution. These days, Hampshire College, under the leadership of new President Jonathan Lash, is feeling a new sense of energy and collective purpose as it continues to fulfill its mission of preparing students to learn and live in an ever more complex world in which the liberal arts must retain their value even as the nature of knowledge and information are changing at an unprecedented pace.

Monday, August 20, 2012


Hard to believe (well, maybe not) that I have been so inactive in this domain, but many things came my way this year, and when I had time to write, it was mainly for other venues or purposes.

But if all goes well, this site will now be more regularly updated. Not promising anything, of course.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Meet New Hampshire College Library Director Jennifer Gunter King

From the Hamphsire College web site:

There are clichés that tend to define the idea of a library: Unbreachable quiet that stretches through long, dark expanses of book stacks. The smell of old paper and dried ink. Quiet corners and carrels where solitary work plods slowly along.

Jennifer Gunter King, Hampshire College’s new director of the Harold F. Johnson Library, isn’t a huge fan of that vision. 

Jennifer Gunter King
“The library today is in the process of evolving from a repository into a center that functions as a hub and gateway to all sorts of resources,” she said. “The library director position in a place like Hampshire, which already embraces a philosophy of pushing the envelope, is well poised to figure out what the library of today and tomorrow looks like.”

To King, that means looking beyond the paper foundation most libraries are built on. With master’s degrees in library science and history from the University of Maryland, College Park, King understands that the fundamental shift from paper to digital means restructuring the library to be as robust virtually as it is physically.
[read the rest]